The Magic of Summer Camp

Before Camp (T-shirt linked – click on photo)
After Camp

Can I just start by saying, I sent this bruise off to summer camp this morning for the first time this summer and the only thing missing when he came back was his socks. WIN!

Preface

Before I get into it, I feel like I need to give lip service to the current COVID situation. I DON’T feel like I should have to defend my decisions for what I do or don’t do with my kids in regards to COVID. Nor should I have to explain them, so I’m not going to. We all need to practice getting in the habit of honoring and respecting others’ decisions, rather than judging or questioning them. So when I tell you I sent my kid to summer camp, your response should simply be, “Wow, I’m really proud of you for making that decision! I know it must have been really hard.” (Because trust me, this is the nature and reality of any decision-making surrounding families with kids and camp/school/daycare). No room for hate or judgement when families are already dealing with all sorts of stress and anxiety as it is.

Now for the magic of summer camp.

Summer camp is one of those growing-up memories lots of kids have, whether they went because they wanted to or they went because they had to. I grew up going to day camps all summer long because I had two working parents who did everything they could to provide for us. I’m lucky in the sense that I chose to be a teacher, granting me summer vacations to spend with my own kids. But I want them to experience the magic of summer camp, just like I did, so we compromise…I’ve sent Luca (and I’ll send Dominic next year when he’s old enough) to a half-day (9:00am-1:30pm) program for Scouts (preschool age) at the lake we belong to for two weeks in August right before we all go back to school.

But let me let you in on a little secret: No one ever tells you that when you hear “the magic of summer camp”, it’s really the parents who experience magical bliss while their kid(s) is off burning energy and exhausting themselves just in time to come home for nap, dinner, and bedtime.

First and foremost, by August, this Mama is spent. By this point in the summer, I’ve spent 2+ months of my year changing diapers, wiping butts, preventing life-threatening injuries and accidents, eating leftover mac and cheese, ignoring temper tantrums, putting bandaids on boo boos, not ever showering, and not using a single adult brain cell (HUGE shout out to all the SAHMs out there!!). And this is night and day compared to my day job during the rest of the year – despite what most people think – this is a far cry from teaching! So sending 1 out of 3 off to summer camp for a few hours a day and consequently only having to deal with 2 kids instead of 3 is MAGIC.

You want to know what else is MAGIC? It buffers the transition back to school. Gets Luca back into a normal routine – getting up in the morning, brushing his teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and getting out the door. Mama and the rest of the kids get to do camp drop-off in our pjs. Starting slowly by getting one out of five family members ready for the day is a lot easier than trying to transition back to doing all five of us at once. That’s why I’m super systematic about it and only send him at the end of the summer when I need a break and when he needs to get his butt back into school mode.

It’s also pretty great when everything you’ve been fighting with your toddler about doing himself this summer just falls into place because Mommy’s not at camp with you to help you wipe your butt. Or put your swimmies on. Or spread your towel out. Or open your lunch. Or carry your backpack. Or change back into your dry clothes. Or put your socks and shoes on (probably why we came back with no socks today, but I’ll take it…). Literally he fights us tooth and nail about getting himself dressed. “But Mommy shirts are a little tricky!” (Insert Mom eyeball roll here.) But somehow, MAGICALLY, he can do it all by himself at camp!

And am I the only Mom out there who, most days, literally counts down the hours until bedtime just because I know I’ll finally get 30 seconds to myself and go pee without an audience? I really hope not. Guess what? Summer camp is MAGIC for that too because Luca comes home at 2pm so dead tired that he immediately takes his rester (thanks, cousin Ryan for coining the term to describe laying comatose on the couch watching youTube kids on the iPad) while the rest of the kids are actually napping. On a good day, no one wakes up till 4 and Luca will go back and forth between youTube kids and independently playing with his toys during this whole time. Giving me some earned hours back in my day, and also that much closer to bedtime!

Honestly, I can’t wait until NEXT August when I can send BOTH the bruises off to summer camp, giving me very rare girl time with my bow. That sounds like an absolute dream.

Really though, BIG shoutout to all the high school and college kids who agree to spend hot summer days with toddlers at a lake…during a pandemic.

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